A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some (with lots of swears)

Jess checks out her pores, Liz scowls that Biore strips aren't invented yet

Sister vs. sister … says the back cover. Again? Believe it or not, I could not wait to review this one. I bought this book the second it popped up on the shelf at our local Waldenbooks. I loved Sweet Valley, and I loved YA novels about beauty pageants! I think one of my favorites was Merivale Mall:Never Stop Smiling. I loved all the backstage cattiness and bitchy backstabbing that inevitably popped up in a teenage beauty pageant tale! Now, this book is unique in that rather than having Jessica duke it out with Amy or Lila or whomever for the title of Miss Teen Sweet Valley, she dukes it out with Liz – for the right to participate in the pageant at all. So that’s a refreshing change from our normal beauty contest storylines … you know, like Jessica stomping on Enid for Miss Fall Ball, Jessica getting trounced by Robin for Miss Sweet Valley High, Jessica being tricked into losing Miss Christmastime to Lila (but getting her back in the end). Ohhh, but none of those are mentioned in this book.

Besides her desire to always be at the center of attention, and her delusional fantasies of attaining worldwide fame through winning a local competition, Jessica’s main wish this ‘go round is to make Steven’s college buddy Frazer McConnell want a piece of her. (What’s REALLY funny is that Jessica somehow thinks winning her local beauty pageant will bring her more fame than her stint on a national television show a few books back.) Frazer doesn’t seem too interested in Jess (or in anything else – he’s kind of boring – perfect friend for Steve!), so Jessica freaks and thinks she has lost her touch. She’s gotten so tired of high school boys and is ready to date older men. Wait, she’s just now ready to do that? Hasn’t she been dating older men since … well, since age 12? (Her first kiss was in Sweet Valley Twins’ The Older Boy!) Then Liz is all, “Oh Jess, the right college boy will come around when the time is right!” What in the hell? Jess has already dated pretty much everyone else at Steven’s school. Jessica also hears rumors that the winner gets a $500 shopping spree at Simple Splendor and many tens of thousands of dollars. The number keeps going up and rather than just checking the facts for herself, Jess is sure that whatever Lila Fowler is saying this week has to be correct. She and Amy sign up; Amy is worried that Jessica will win … well duh. A Wakefield entering a contest and not winning? What’s next, Amy spying fresh dick and not jumping on it?

But oh yes, Liz is super incensed about the pageant which she considers sexist due to the whole parading ’round in a suit for the judges’ approval part (the exact point of which has always confused me as well). She is determined to have it shut down. She wants all beauty pageants … outlawed. Yes, you heard me … OUTLAWED. That is the EXACT word she uses on multiple occasions. She even writes an article for the Oracle, the headline of which states as much. In the meantime, she’s also leading marches on City Hall with picket signs and confronting Valley Mall shoppers with pamphlets. Wow, when did Liz get this women’s lib? Oh well, good for her, I guess. (I’m like Marvin in Pulp Fiction … “Man, I don’t even have an opinion.”) Jessica is pissed as shit that her sister wants to ruin her shot at fame and new clothes, and I can’t blame her. I do get why Liz is against the pageant but why not just campaign to have the swimsuit portion removed? That would make a nice compromise right? And that’s what Ned and Alice keep pushing the twins toward, but neither one will give. So the twins have uncomfortable silent dinners and shoot icy glares in each other’s direction, and snap at each other in front of their friends. Even Amy and Jess are getting along relatively well considering that each is suspicious of what the other will do in the pageant’s talent competition. If Amy’s being nicer to someone than Liz is, then something’s wrong man.

Then the Sweet Valley News reads Liz’s article and runs it in their paper … and the local TV station puts the twins on TV because it’s oh-so-fascinating that two girls who look so much alike could have two different opinions on something. Liz comes off as composed and sure of herself while Jess babbles over and over about how many pageant winners have won scholarships and gone on to do great things. Color me surprised … right.

While Jessica secretly works her ass off at learning a dance routine and getting Simple Splendor to agree to loan her their best-looking pink ballgown for the pageant (in exchange for the free publicity), Liz lies in bed “heartbroken” and makes plans to see a movie with Todd on the night of the pageant. Oh, come on, Liz! Meanwhile, Enid, Dana, and Olivia (Liz’s partners-in-protest) grow weary of their losing battle to get the pageant shut down. Then Elizabeth finds a law on the books that says the school cannot host an outside event for profit unless the superintendent personally approves it – and he’s (get this) in the Soviet Union meeting with Soviet teachers. Liz meets with Chrome Dome Cooper, all ready to show him her findings, but her heart just isn’t in it, so she makes up a lame excuse for the meeting about the Oracle running low on funds.

The day of the pageant arrives and conditions are still frosty between the twins, but Liz decides she can’t miss the pageant and shows up to find her parents saved her a seat because they know their daughter pretty well. The pageant is pretty simple! Jessica is up against two other main contenders, a “professional actress” named Maggie Simmons and a fantastic piano player, a hearing-impaired girl named Sharon Jefferson. Amy is there all sure of winning the pageant with her baton routine but Jess has her dance number down pat and isn’t worried.

The pageant goes like this:
-The emcee (Mr. Cooper) asks each girl a question. Amy gets a question about which room in the house she would be, and answers that she would be the living room because it’s “the most fun room in the house”! Tee hee! What a dumb question. Jessica’s question is about what she would do as President of the United States; she says she’d make sure something would be done to help the homeless and the environment. Liz laughs to herself because she knows the first thing Jess would do is redecorate the White House. My thoughts exactly!
-After the questions comes the talent competition. Amy does her baton routine, which is professionally excellent but kind of bores people nonetheless. She should’ve used flaming batons like in Miss Congeniality. Maggie does a superb monologue from The Taming of the Shrew and Sharon blows everyone away on the baby grand piano. Jess is nervous but her dance routine is flawless … until she trips and falls onto her knees near the end. The audience gasps and Jess is humiliated but finishes the dance. As soon as she finishes, she changes into street clothes and prepares to escape out the backdoor and quit the pageant! What the hell! What kind of wussy behavior is that? Liz runs backstage and catches her but can’t convince Jess to change her mind, so you should already figure out how Liz will (reluctantly) save the day …
-The swimsuit competition is the final part of the pageant before the finalists are chosen. That’s right, Liz has to change into a swimsuit and heels and pretend to be Jessica. She strides the stage while everyone oohs and aahs and feels totally embarrassed. Jessica sees her do it and is delighted and ready to rock again, so she puts on her ball gown and runs back out.
-The finalists are chosen: Jess, Sharon, and Maggie. Maggie’s final question asks what she would do if she had to kiss the winner of a frog-jumping contest at a county fair. She says she’d “kiss him, of course, and hope he turns into a handsome prince.” Sharon’s question asks what she would do if she found out her engagement ring was a fake. She says she’d end the relationship because it would prove her fiance felt he couldn’t be honest with her. And Jessica gets the oh-so-convenient question of which person in all the world means the most to her … kill me.
-Jessica wins. Shock me shock me. First runner-up is Sharon and second runner-up is Maggie.

Jessica’s excitement over winning is dimmed as she realizes that she probably just won because she’s the prettiest girl on the stage. Um, duh? Then Jessica realizes that the crown being placed on her head isn’t up to the giant crown of her fantasies. Oh my lord, give me a fucking break woman!!! Worst of all, Frazer doesn’t seem to give a crap that she won. Then the Wakefields go out for pizza at Guido’s to celebrate and Jessica finally looks at the REAL list of prizes … here’s what she really gets:

  1. Haircut at the new styling salon at the mall
  2. One month’s free bowling at Al’s Alley (Ha! As we learned a couple of books ago, Jessica thinks bowling is ghetto or something)
  3. A set of encyclopedias
  4. $25 gift certificate to Things for Girls
  5. 10 free movie rentals at Quick-dash
  6. The big cash prize: $100

Jessica is really upset. Personally, I think those prizes are awesome, which goes to show how old I am. But I’m thinking $25 isn’t going to go very far at that store … whatever that is. Is that supposed to pay for clothes? I think I could buy two tank tops or maybe pay for most of one sweater at Target with that for God’s sake. Not that I’m going to complain if someone wants to give me $25 … *stretches out hand*

Now don’t worry, we can’t have the book end without giving Jessica what she wants. Frazer comes to the Wakefield house just to ask Jessica out. He had a hard time doing this before because she’s his buddy’s (um, UNDERAGE) little sister. Jessica floats on air all the way to the Dairi Burger! Better not eat too many sundaes Jess, you wouldn’t want to gain an extra four ounces. Oh, and Liz decides it’s okay she didn’t go through with getting the pageant canceled because she got people thinking about today’s modern standards of beauty, or at least that’s what she tells herself so she can sleep at night.

So, what have we learned, kids? That 1) Jessica always gets what she wants, ALWAYS, just because she decides she wants to have it, 2) Liz will get what she wants as long as it doesn’t mean preventing Jessica getting what she wants, and 3) Amy Sutton can’t entertain anyone unless she’s in their backseat at Miller’s Point.

The sub-plot: Jessica takes dance lessons at a studio run by a Mr. Krezenski and he is mean to her and much harder on her than the other girls. He tells her she dances like a drunken moose and it makes me laugh my ass off. She confronts him and he explains he is only being hard on her because she’s the best dancer in the class, or some shit. Um … okay? Then after she falls he tells her he is proud of her for “finishing the dance” after she fell. She comes to see him and says she’s quitting the lessons because she has no time for them now, and he tells her she has real talent and that it would be a shame if she gives up on dance permanently. I agree! Let’s get her to the Beach Disco, put a little liquor in her and see some of those drunken moose moves!

What the fuck? How much do you want to bet we hear nothing of Jessica’s supposed beauty pageant duties after this book? I bet she skips out on them and Sharon has to fill in for her all the time!

Enid update: It should come as a surprise to NO ONE that there has been zero mention so far of Enid and Jeffrey dating. I get it, whatever happens in the Super Star books stays in the Super Star books!

There’s a girl in Jessica’s dance class named Marlena who knows Jessica as “Elizabeth’s sister’ and views her like the Messiah because of this. Jessica and I both want to puke on Marlena’s toe shoes.

Cara has a cousin named Barbara, previously never mentioned, who is a junior at another area high school. Barbara is Frazer’s date for one evening and it makes Jess jealous, even though the “date” appears to just be a get-together at the Wakefield house … how lame. Frazer also has some kind of history with another chick named Monica Crane. You know, for someone who couldn’t get up the guts to ask Jess out, Frazer sure gets around.

There are two things I have to point out about this cover. First, no more classic circles! I still don’t know why that decision was made; I didn’t think they were that unfashionable at the time. These new covers are boring – and half the time it’s clear the picture was blown up from the original and it looks off and weird. The picture on this one seems grainy to me up close. Again, it seems readers in the UK, Australia, and who knows where else got to keep their circles. I’M JEALOUS OF ALL OF YOU. At least we got to hang on to our classic “number in a flag” 🙂

Second – if the twins’ facial expressions look overly familiar to you, that’s because these portraits are recycled in a way. Hmmm, where have we seen that smug expression on Jess before? Check it out …

The Parent Plot vs. Miss Teen Sweet Valley!

It’s not the exact same picture, but it’s pretty close. The new picture looks like it was painted using the older picture as a guide, with slight changes to style, and then flipped. Oh, and Liz’s judgmental face and stupid barrettes?

Love Letters vs. Miss Teen Sweet Valley!

They’re the same. Again, not the same image pasted onto one cover directly from the other, but same deal – Liz is even wearing the same outfit! Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that. If I had to guess, I’d say the cover model grew up and Mathewuse decided to use some of his original portraits for guidance instead.

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: “I’ve already lost interest in the whole silly idea. I mean, a shopping spree? Please. I can already buy whatever I want, so why should I go to all the trouble of walking down a runway for a few dumb prizes?”
-and-
“You, Jessica Wakefield, are getting to be a real bore. How long has it been since you’ve had a date, anyway?” *BURN*
-and-
*witnessing an argument between Jess and Liz at the Dairi Burger* “Let’s pull in our claws, Liz. No sense in making a public spectacle.”

I just realized that Lila talks to Liz the same way my sister and I have always spoken to each other. This must be where we got it from …

Yeah, so guess what it’s time for now? That’s right, our Sweet Valley Reader of the Month! This month’s SVH winner is Kari Capone from New York. Kari writes that she has a lot of interests but that she adores Sweet Valley books and they are “tops” with her. She first got hooked on the books when her mother bought a couple for a friend’s birthday and Kari begged her mom to let her have them instead (if she bought her friend something else). I like Kari’s essay except where she writes that although we “must think me a terrible bookworm” she doesn’t “look like a bookworm”. Well young lady, what does a bookworm look like? I guess like Lynne Herny on Alone in the Crowd, isn’t that right Kari? PC POLICE! ARREST THIS GIRL!

In the back of the book we have two fantastic new ads. Listen to me, I’m SUCH a dork. Hahaha. Anyway! One of these is for the Sweet Valley Sunglasses! Ohhhh, but they’re not just any sunglasses – they’re COLOR MAGIC SUNGLASSES. That’s right! This was at the height of Hypercolor T-shirt popularity in the U.S. Now you can step out on the beach and watch not only your shirt, but your “durable” glasses change color! PLEASE tell me at least one of you out there had these! Free to the first 10,000 readers to send in the coupon! (I didn’t send it in … I suck.) (You can see a terrible picture of these glasses right here at Sweet Valley Unlimited! Scroll down a little to find it.) Which reminds me, does anybody have that Sweet Valley camera they offered many books back? I want one of those cameras so I can be like Liz and take all kinds of nosy pictures of people, then run away screaming when they get mad at me.

Also … an ad announcing the impending arrival of SWEET VALLEY SAGA! YES! I have been waiting forever to get to this book! As I recall, that book wasn’t half bad. Of course, I was 10 or something when I read it, so who knows.

Until next time … when we learn how far Tony Esteban will go to win a race. Yeah, Tony Esteban, that kid who pops up whenever the story calls for an extra runner or soccer player. I couldn’t care less about this book because Sweet Valley Saga comes after it! Bite me Tony!

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Comments on: "#76 Miss Teen Sweet Valley" (3)

  1. aubynpeach said:

    Ok, so entertainment weekly reviewed Sweet Valley Confidential. And in keeping with the original series it is pretty silly. But they did give the hint that one Wakefield is gay! Oh I might have to buy it.

  2. aubynpeach said:

    I am in. I just pre-ordered Sweet Valley Confidential on my kindle and it will arrive tomorrow. I am not proud of myself but i am so excited.

  3. I scored my copy of SVC tonight. SO stoked.

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